ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Some people might argue that, just by making Frank's life story into a big Hollywood movie, you're going to glamorize him somehow. If you look at how Scarface became a touchstone among rappers
DENZEL WASHINGTON: Scarface gets more credit than it's worth. Scarface didn't change people. People were already living that. Scarface was just a good movie.
RUSSELL CROWE: The bottom line is, Frank Lucas' life was glamorous. He had a hip club. He had a lot of sports stars and movie guys he was on a first-name basis with, not to mention politicians. We're telling it like it is. But Ridley also shows the damage from what Frank did. He shows young girls injecting heroin into their feet. He shows a mother passed out on the bed while her kid is crying. Frank's life may have had some glamour, but Frank's business caused and is shown to cause in the film a hell of a lot of damage.
What was it like to be making this movie with the real-life people you're playing looking over your shoulder while you worked?
CROWE: It's incredible when you've actually got the source, still alive, still erudite, still willing to discuss things with you and give you details. A lot of it is osmosis, though, man. You can pretend you're shaping it and putting it together, but if I spend enough time with someone, I pick stuff up I'm not really fully conscious of. You just do your best to get some sort of accuracy. You're not a slave to it, but you don't want the person you're playing to scoff at the end and say, ''That's nothing like me.''
In the cases of Hurricane and A Beautiful Mind, you both faced some controversy over certain inaccuracies in the film, things that deviated from the real stories.
WASHINGTON: You've got to understand: It's a movie, so everything is deviated. American Gangster takes place in two hours and there's a musical score. Richie never walked down the street with a 67-piece orchestra playing behind him.
CROWE: [Laughing] As much as he wanted to.
WASHINGTON: It's all manipulation and moviemaking. It's not a documentary. No movie about a real person is true. I remember when we were making Malcolm X, I came to realize there were as many opinions about who he really was as there were people I talked to. So I was like, OK, I'll create my own.
NEXT PAGE: ''You know, I worked with Leonardo [DiCaprio] when he was 18. He was a virgin, and he would talk about that constantly.''